Saturday, November 21, 2009

An economic investment zone project ready for lease in Dar

THE government of Tanzania in collaboration with the Export Processing Zones Authority (EPZA) is providing land for industrial use which is available for lease at a newly established project of Benjamin Mkapa Special Economic Zone (BWM-SEZ).
The park is located at Mabibo suburb in Ubungo along Nelson Mandela Expressway in the city of Dar es Salaam, its location is 12 kilometers away from Dar es Salaam port and 14 kilometers from Mwalimu Nyerere International Airport. The project which was initially established by the President’s Office, Economic planning, Privatization and Empowerment during the third phase government has currently been transferred to the Ministry of Trade, Industries and Marketing. This is a world class industrial park for export processing zones developed solely by the government of Tanzania under the strategy known as “The Tanzania Mini-Tiger Plan 2020” which is aimed at contributing to the acceleration of the growth of Tanzania’s Economy to between 8-10 percent GDP growth.

An aerial view of part of the BWM-SEZ at Mabibo suburb in Dar es Salaam. The most fascinating architectural design of the building is that shopping mall which has been designed with a curved structure on its façade.

The Mini-Tiger Plan 2020 is the strategy designed to build Special Economic Zones
needed to fast track the implementation of National Strategy for Growth and Reduction of Poverty popularly known as “MKUKUTA” with the aim to create between 2-3 million new jobs by year 2020. The government has already spent about Tshs. 36.5 billion towards the cost of construction of BWM-SEZ which is the largestin the country covering an area of about 259,400.49sqm. This is 52 hectares which is
equivalent to 125 acres of land. Report by EPZA shows that, out of Tshs. 35.6 billion, 31.7 billion being the cost of construction of civil works, buildings, drainage works,landscaping, electrical and telephone installation. Tsh. 4.8 billion has been spent under a separate contract for the design and construction of the 33KVA power sub-station. However, the total cost of the project is expected to reach about Tsh. 40 billion at completion.

An electricity sub-station is one of the major facilities which has been made available to cater for the need of electricity during power cuts within the BWM-SEZ. Other infrastructures such as roads and water drainage systems are all in good place.

Efforts are being undertaken by EPZA to hire large portion of this land to the prospective investors to run their businesses in light manufacturing and processing industries and labour intensive which would later earn the government with money. BWM-SEZ offers serviced land for lease and the plot sizes ranges from 300 sq meters to 11,000 sq meters. Each plot has connectivity points for water, electricity, gas, fire fighting system and sewerage system. The rental fee is 60 cents per sq meter per annum payable 10 years in advance, and the lease term is 33 years. According to the Director General of the EPZA, Dr. Adelhelm Meru, investors will also be required to pay a monthly service fee to cover for common services. In addition to the lease of serviced land, the BWM-SEZ welcomes investors who want to rent factory space. Construction of the factory sheds is at its final stage. The park also offers office space for lease to companies providing services to the park. Investors who succeed to be leased with plots within BWM-SEZ are expected to start construction of their industrial structures by end of 2009. It is expected that, in three years time (i.e by 2012) industries within BWM-SEZ will be full in operational.

This is a dispensary within BWM-SEZ, the building will be used for first aid medical treatment to workers of the factories within and not for out patient
Currently the construction work of buildings at the BWM-SEZ project site is completed and the main contractor is busy handing over some parts of the buildings to their client. The finished buildings are the administrative block which houses the main office of the Export Processing Zones Authority (EPZA). Other buildings are the dispensary to be used as a first aid clinic for workers inside the zone, a cafeteria, an impressive shopping arcade designed with an arch structure roof which would be used to sell manufacturing products within the zone, a fire station building and a customs house. The fire station would be installed with the special machines whose sense would detect fire within 25 radius kilometers, thus safety would be ensured at the zone from any possible dangerous fire occurrence within the zone. Apart from the buildings, the zone is equipped with the necessary infrastructure facilities These includes, a 33KVA power sub-station, a reliable gas distribution system connected to Songas pipelines, and a reliable sewerage disposals.

This is a fire building which is strategically designed with an open space on which to park fire vehicle.

There is underground network of electricity as well as telephone cables and water hydrant point in every plot. The electricity power station has been constructed in order to receive more power to feed the transformers which are to be installed later within the zone. The sewerage disposals would be pumped through a channel of storm water in a large ditch constructed close to the operating light industries within the zone, this would be later pumped outside to circulation point treatment or oxidation point Others are underground water reserve tank with a capacity of 4.5 million litters constructed with an underground depth of 9 meters deep designed to meet the water demand for 24 hours, a reliable fire fighting systems. Currently there are already finished supporting buildings for one stop service centre. This is after an intensive construction work of a land survey which was done by a team of architectural experts from the Dar es Salaam based Ardhi University which had also been supervising the work at the site for the last five years.

A structure made like mount Kilimanjaro monument at BWM-SEZ is an exciting landmark feature within the economic zone area. The feature has become an attraction to passersby who can view it clearly from outside the gate.

The initial construction phase started in August 2002 and ended up in 2005. The second phase continued and the main contractor, a locally registered class one construction company, Tanzania Building Works Ltd kept the construction at much faster pace in order to finish on the agreed date. BWM-SEZ is a landmark project whose construction lies on plot “No. 1081 Block B”. Among the most distinguishing feature which can be found within the project site is a structure made like mount Kilimanjaro monument which is a 9 meter high from the ground, stationed strategically few meters away from the main gate. The structure is architecturally designed on its top which is put the white stones at the peak to imitate the snow cap and the green robust ground cover to imitate the Kilimanjaro tundra, and high rise ground cover to imitate the intermediate trees.

The main gate is designed with a special covering material on top of the security building. This is a unique and a modern style building.

Right from the beginning the master plan of the project favoured the site as the most convenient one for the allocation of the SEZ project so as to attract local and international investors to enjoy the benefits and privileges of the SEZ, and Dar es Salaam being the main port of Tanzania, has good capacity to handle production from the SEZ. Its location in the suburb presents no problem to would be tenants because of its proximity to the local people and its conveniences it offers. “The construction is a good example of such a development an export economic processing zone needed for commercial purpose in semi-urban areas” Detailing from the architectural point of view, buildings at the BWM-SEZ project are decorated with high quality window glass fixed on steel aluminum products which have been supplied by Shamo Industries Ltd, a locally registered class one specialist contractor by CRB.

All buildings at the BWM-SEZ are decorated with alluco board, these are aluminium products used for decoration in buildings. It demonstrates high technology application by use of modern construction materials.

Aluminum and glazing are becoming an integral part in construction industry worldwide. The façade of each building at the site is decorated by using sheet glass which exhibits a more contemporary architectural design that provides an aesthetic beauty. The structured glazing looks darkish from outside and has been fixed on aluminum frames also supplied by Shamo Industries Ltd. Part of the external wall has been done by using a wall covering material called alluco board, this is a metal product joined with black fillers. The firm has laid down a success story in its endeavors of their manufacturing to international quality standards. The firm buys these materials from Italy and UK in order to meet the current demand of good product quality for aluminum and glass products of various colors and shapes. Other construction companies which took part in the project is Derm Electrical Company, a class one registered by CRB, specialized in Electricity and Air-conditioning systems. The firm did electrification work in every building within the zone.

The entire roads network within BWM-SEZ which have also been designed for pedestrians
Pedestrian walkways and spaces at the SEZ are designed to encourage walking through and around each Development Plot with basic principles that Provide separation between pedestrian and vehicle movements, and well defined separation of pedestrian paths from parking areas to building entrances. They also provide safe and convenient pedestrian walkways between buildings, paved areas and a free easy access for wheeled traffic, disabled and services to be according to relevant regulation in the use of ramps and proper dimensioning of access roads.EPZA is mandated to plan, develop and maintain an economic processing zones in some few selected areas in the country. The mission of the authority is to promote an adequate, safe and well maintained zone so as to effectively contribute to the social-economic development. In view of this, the authority is struggling to get areas of more economic zones and some areas have been earmarked for development such as Bagamoyo, Tanga, Arusha and Mtwara. The BWM-SEZ at Mabibo is the pilot project

Friday, November 13, 2009

Stigma and discrimination against HIV/AIDS victims still exists among the people

In Tanzania, like in any other country elsewhere in the world, there are well-documented cases of people with HIV/AIDS being stigmatized, discriminated against and sometimes denied access to services on the ground of their zero status. In spite of efforts to prevent the scourge, the persistent stigma and discrimination increase the impact of the epidemic on families and nations. The habit has long been condemned by various human rights organizations as an irresponsible act because it encourages, rather than prevent the spread of the scourge. This sort of discrimination is intensely personal and it takes many forms, such as families and communities may reject and ostracize those living or believed to be living with HIV/AIDS, or in-laws boycotting the widow of a son who has died from the disease and many other related examples. The stigma and discrimination associated with HIV/AIDS have many other effects in a society. To mention a few in particular, they have powerful, psychological consequences for how many people with HIV/AIDS come to see themselves, leading some cases to depression. Lack of HIV/AIDS awareness in societies is a prime cause which leads people to stigmatize and discriminate. Such acts are based on presumed or actual HIV-positive status and hence this is contrary to human rights. The HIV/AIDS related stigma and discrimination are triggered by many forces including lack of understanding of the disease, myths about how HIV is transmitted, prejudice, lack of treatment and irresponsible media on the reporting of the epidemic. All these contribute to the way people react towards the infected. People may lack education to understand that the spread through everyday contacts can be avoided by adoption of relatively simple precautions. There are many examples of initial efforts to eliminate these forms of stigma and discrimination and their success depends of people’s efforts. Stigma has ancient roots and it has been described as a quality that significantly discredits an individual in the eyes of others. It has also important consequences for the way in which individuals come to see themselves. Much HIV/AIDS related stigma builds upon and reinforces earlier negative thoughts. People with HIV/AIDS are often believed to have deserved what has happened to them, being thought doing something wrong in their lives. Often these wrong doings are linked to sex or to illegal and socially frowned activities, such as drug use, men who becomes infected bisexually or as having unsafe sexual intercourse with prostitutes on the streets. Women with HIV/AIDS are viewed often to perpetuate stigma and discrimination, partly through fear, partly through ignorance and partly because it is convenient to blame those who have been affected first. It is also necessary when analyzing the roots and results of stigma to demonstrate how different groups experience stigma and most particularly how men and women are differently affected by it. Stigma is linked to power and domination throughout societies as a whole. It plays a key role that ultimately creates social inequality. Stigma has its origins deep within the structure of society as a whole and in the norms and values that govern much of everyday life. Stigma and discrimination against AIDS sufferers causes some groups of people feel superior than others. For example. Long ideologies of gender inequality have resulted in women being blamed for the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases. HIV/AIDS related stigma often leads to a discriminative attitude, which is difficult to overcome and this, in turn leads to a disregard of the dignity of people living with HIV/AIDS virus, their families and even those who are thought of being infected. Beyond legal redress, there are many other ways of tackling HIV/AIDS related stigma. Public information campaigns as these have an important role to play in helping people understand the unfairness and injustice of discrimination. The campaigns can change individual and social attitudes, participatory education can help individuals place themselves to respect those who suffer discrimination and thereby appreciate the injustices of discriminatory actions.

Children affected with HIV/AIDS disease are still being discriminated in our societies.

Though grass-root activism, advocacy and involvement in development and implementation policy, actions of people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS can be radical force for change, breaking down the barriers to the full realization of human rights. In Tanzania here, one important observation is that most of these reported cases involve people living in urban areas, who can at least afford to access hospital treatment. But people in rural areas have a disadvantage for this, for reasons ranging from ignorance where there is still a belief that those suffering from HIV/AIDS disease have been bewitched. According to Tanzania Commission for AIDS (TACAIDS), the infection rate was rising in the country due to increased cases of stigma and discrimination associated with HIV/AIDS. According to the commission, people fear to go to the voluntary test because once they knew that they are infected, they would be automatically stigmatized by some of their friends, neighbors and even their family members. However, an AIDS activist in the country Miss Flora Njunwa suggest that, a law to penalize those who are fond of stigmatizing the infected individuals in the country should be enacted, noting that this state of affair has instilled fear to undergo tests to determine people’s health status. As tools for tackling HIV/AIDS related stigma and discrimination , policy and legal reform stakeholders have a limited impact unless supported by the values and expectations of a society as a whole. Documented efforts to challenge HIV/AIDS related stigma and discrimination remains relatively rare. Research work is urgently needed to identify the least effective ways of tackling stigma and discrimination across a range of contexts. With respect to measures to counter discrimination, a more programmatic approach has frequently been adopted. This has involved a variety of actors coming together to counter the negative consequences of HIV/AIDS related stigma as it impacts upon lives and communities. Too often in the past, understanding was linked to a model of enlightment in which those who know best intervene to redress negative mentalities and attitudes. This approach regard those who are being educated as instrumental to empowering communities through participatory processes that unleash their knowledge and experiences. The success approach in this needs a long-term advocacy for social change in response to HIV/AIDFS related stigmatization and discrimination. The role of people with HIV/AIDS and of religious and political leaders in the country as regards such a process cannot be underestimated. Comprehensive care and services, including voluntary counseling and testing and care are available to enable individuals to learn their status and enable them to share their status with other family members. A legal protection for people living with HIV/AIDS is a powerful way of redressing and thereby mitigating the unequal power relations, the social inequality and the exclusion that lie beneath HIV/AIDS related stigmatization and discrimination. Action is needed to tackle gender, racial and sexual inequalities and stereotypes upon which HIV/AIDS related stigmatization and discrimination.

Internet: the magic of communication for business and economic solution

WHEN web surfing was introduced to the rest of the world in early 1998 to compete head on with new and old media, little did the world know that Information and Communication Technology (ICT) was going to transform economies of scale for small and medium size business enterprises. Internet, being one of the fast growing and the leading tool of the ICT in today’s era of Science and technology is more useful for the purpose of speeding up business and economic development of nations. With the use of the internet facility for business and economic transactions, the pace of globalization has been accelerated and many governments have made significant progresses to achieve their targets. The progresses made so far is as a result of deploying ICT in both e-government and e-governance solutions in a category whereby several departments from various government ministries are transforming their business operations quickly. Internet is an enabler for people, the business community and civil society to communicate at no cost or at low cost. It has prompted a change of development in a global sphere of thinking as it is a feeder of information transfer. Various arms of governments in the world including Tanzania use ICT to promote their tourism market, especially by small operators who specialize in eco-tourism and adventure tourism. The tool has also revolutionized education, governance, manufacturing, medicine, communication and Transport in entirely. With the emergence of the globalization, business operators are under constant pressure for reforms and ICT has been a driving force allowing their capital to move quicker. The most surprising thing to note is that, ICT by not recognizing borders is encouraging everyone to engage in the process. According to the Tanzania Defense of Human Rights and Citizen Rights protections, investments in ICTs have grown substantially and there is a general agreement that increased ICT production and usage and this has contributed a lot to the economic growth of the country. ICTs are tools that help to transfer knowledge and information quickly and comprises the manufacturing and service industries that capture, transmit and display data and information electronically. The manufactured products include office, accounting and computing machinery and other electronic components such as computer peripheral equipment and software, wholesaling of electronic and Tele-communication parts. In recent years, internet being one of the powerful ICT tool has transformed the performance of the global banking business transactions. With new technological set ups, most Banks have been automating their services in order to cater for the increase in demand for quick, efficient and cost effective practices. Tanzania which in the past was conducting a socialist type of economy before it allowed trade liberalization policy in 1985, has entered in international investment forum that culminated in the mushrooming of banking institutions in the country. Now with the proliferation of banking institutions in the country, follows business competition which is exacerbated by the emerging technologies. To cope with the situation internet as the main driving force is extensively used for innovative work. With the use of internet, there are some advancements which have drastically taken place in terms of business transactions, these are such as online payments, hotel reservations, online job adverts, flight e-bookings and many others.

People at the local internet cafe, internet communication has of late become the easiest and useful communication tool for economic and social develoment.

“ICT in general is important in foreign earnings, business support as well as e-commerce, tourism, marketing of domestic products, improved social services and strengthening international relationship”, says the Principal Researcher with the Tanzania Industrial Research and Development Organization (TIRDO) Dr. George .S. Oreku who was recently quoted as saying by this paper. According to him, if ICT is properly utilized and worked out in many development programs it can make improvements and wider technological skills for every sector of the national economy. Transferring money using the services of cell-phone network operators is increasingly becoming a common phenomenon among the more than 14 million Tanzanians who currently have access to mobile telephony. Cellular network money transfer were pioneered in East Africa by the Kenya based company in 2007, coining the code M-Pesa for the service and that code was later adopted by Vodacom Tanzania Limited. The system is among the easiest ways of sending money within the country whether one has a bank account or not. One can also pay for the goods and services purchased by one using the system. In Sept 2006, it can be remembered that “The Citibank Tanzania Ltd” introduced an online funds transfer. This online banking services dubbed “City Direct” enables their customers in the country to transfer money electronically at the click of a computer mouse. This is an innovative way that see to its customers the transfer of funds online to beneficiary accounts held at other commercial banks in the country. The services relieves the customers of the necessity of using paper cheques and eliminates the need to visit the bank for transaction services. Information Technology experts relates the service as the magic of online communication that is efficient and ensures safety of transactions. Through this online connection, Citibank customers are able to initiate various types of payments including salaries, supplier payments taxes and dividends from their offices efficiently and in a secured manner. Another bank with the same services is the Tanzania Postal Bank. Banking sector has gone so far in the use of ICT and their applications for business transactions. The banks have also expounded this technology particularly in e-documentations and Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) According to the Director of ICT in the Ministry of Communications, Science and Technology Dr. Zaipuna Yona, once there is proper utilization of ICT in government offices, then there could be no fall-in for passports in Immigration offices in the country or flocking of customers at the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) offices. Although ICT services has expounded largely in towns and in cities where most business activities takes place, farmers in rural areas suffers the most as they do not have direct access because of a number of factors. The basic one being lack of a reliable infrastructure as well as electricity in those areas. Forget about the provision of the ISP for the internet that might become impossible owing to the location of an area. In Tanzania, the recent introduction of a mobile internet access product by a cellular phone company, Zain Tanzania, aimed at assisting its subscribers surf quickly and easily in rural areas. According to Zain Tanzania, the service that employs GRPS/EDGE technology enables data connections significantly faster than dial-up and traditional GSM systems. This is a wireless service facility that enables one to download voice, data and images faster in computers. The technology keeps one connected to his/her laptop computer while on travels in Zain coverage areas in the country. The access usually provides subscribers with pre-paid and post paid customer care services and the freedom to stay connected. People owning laptops buys personal computer internet cards (PCI Card) with which they can access the internet and get connection with corporate networks, send business applications and workforce management systems. With such developing concept of a modern communication technology that employs the use of internet, Zain Tanzania Ltd makes use of its widest coverage in the region to help stimulate convenient business interaction at an affordable price. Under the operation, internet café businesses in rural areas are a common place.

Who has to take care of the HIV/AIDS orphans?

THE real battle against HIV/AIDS disease in most communities is entirely being played out by members of the affected victims in villages where the authorities of most governments rarely extends crucial services. It’s known that HIV/AIDS disease is striking at the heart of families and communities. It is an unprecedented global development challenge which has already caused too much hardship, illness and untimely death. The pandemic affects individuals, devastates households and communities and now threatens entire nations. Tanzania already had long severe records of the HIV/AIDS epidemics that is generating orphans so quickly that family structures can no longer cope. As the number of adult deaths is rising now and then, an increasing number of orphans is growing up without parental care and love. The increased spiral of adult deaths means that the number of children orphaned each day is expanding exponentially. Families and communities can barely fend for themselves, leaving behind a generation of children to be raised by their grandparents. The vulnerability of AIDS orphans starts well before the death of a parent. Children living with caregivers often experience many negative changes in their lives and can start to suffer emotional neglect even before the death of the parent or caregiver. In Tanzania, there have been traditional systems in place to take care of children who lose their parents for various reasons. But the onslaught of HIV/AIDS slowly but surely erodes this good traditional practice by simply overloading its caring capacity by the sheer number of orphaned children needing support and care.
A larger proportion of orphans in the country have lost their parents to AIDS disease than to any other cause of death - meaning that, were it not for the AIDS epidemic, these children would not have been orphaned. Statistics by the government shows that, about 10 percent of population are HIV positive and one in seven children is an orphan. The government estimates that there are about 3 millions of them here in Tanzania. Reports by the government through the Ministry of Health indicates that, Iringa region has the highest HIV/AIDS infection rate at 15.7 percent in the country, but authorities hope to bring down the figures by half in 2012. The region has two times the national average infection rate, which according to latest statistics, stands at around five percent.
Since the inaugural of HIV/AIDS Voluntary Testing campaign by President Jakaya Kikwete in July 2006, the testing campaign has shown a remarkable achievements in the previous three years as 5 million people have tested countrywide. According to the data from Tanzania HIV/AIDS and Malaria indicator, survey 2007/08, the national prevalence among the sexually active populations (between 15 and 49 years of age), is reported to be 5.7 percent. The data shows that, more women (about 6.6 percent are infected than men who stands at 4.6 percent). Compared with HIV prevalence data from the 2003/04, there has been a slight decrease in overall prevalence of HIV among sexually active population from 7.0 percent in 2003/04 to 5.7 percent in 2007/08.

A lady undergoing HIV/AIDS test at Voluntary Counseling Testing centre. To know each others’ status would help reduce AIDS infections.

Statistics further shows that, there is also a decrease in prevalence from 6.3 percent in 2003/04 to 4.6 percent 2007/08 for men and 7.7 percent to 6.6 for women respectively.
The economic impact of HIV/AIDS illness and death has serious consequences for an orphan's access to basic necessities such as shelter, food, clothing, health and education. Orphans run greater risks of being malnourished than children who have parents to look after them. In addition there is the emotional suffering of the children which usually begins with their parents' distress and progressive illness. Eventually, the children suffer the death of their parent(s) and the emotional trauma that results. They then may have to adjust to a new situation, with little or no support, and they may suffer exploitation and abuse, this is because of the fact that most of their care givers are old people who lives in extreme poverty in remote rural areas where the provision of health services is very scarce. The distress and social isolation experienced by these children, both before and after the death of their parent(s), is strongly exacerbated by the shame, fear, and rejection that often surrounds people affected by HIV/AIDS. Because of this stigma and often-irrational fear surrounding AIDS, children may be denied access to schooling and health care. And once a parent dies, children may also be denied their inheritance and property.
The only way forward is prevention and care. Preventing more adults from becoming infected with HIV viruses in the future, and providing treatment and care, will prevent even more children from becoming orphans in the future. In the early days of the AIDS orphan crisis, there was a rush by well meaning non-governmental organizations to build orphanages. But this response was unsustainable given the scale of the problem as the cost of maintaining a child in such an institution needs great care. Most people now believe that orphans should be cared for in family units through extended family networks, foster families and adoption, and that siblings should not be separated. But the extended family can only serve as part of the solution to mass orphan hood if adequately supported by the state, community and other sectors. The community needs to be supportive of children when they are orphaned. Orphans need to be accepted as part of the community and to have access to essential services such as health care and education.
A variety of different community organizations in the country do now provide support for orphans, and the government does encourage communities to provide care for orphans within the community, and to rely on institutional care only as a last resort. In recent years, Tanzanian government established a National Orphan Care Task Force. The Task Force is made up of various representatives and organizations which are responsible for planning, monitoring and revising all programmes on orphan care. An important aspect of the government's strategy has been to promote and support community based programmes, and in both rural and urban areas across Tanzania, communities are developing a variety of ways to cope with the growing crisis of AIDS orphans whose parents have died of AIDS disease. In many villages orphanage committees have been established to monitor the local situation and to take collective action to assist those in need. Older people who takes care of orphans in these villages are themselves at risk of infection. However International data on infection rates does not include those older than fifty. A report from Help Age International Tanzania, presents the findings of a participatory study of older Tanzanians saying nearly two million people in Tanzania are over 60 years old. One of the most devastating aspects of the HIV/AIDS epidemic is the growing proportion of children the disease has orphaned. Unlike most diseases, HIV/AIDS generally kills not just one, but both parents. On top of the psychological impact of losing one’s parents, children who lose their parents to AIDS are often stigmatized or ostracized by their communities. These children are often much more at risk of becoming a victim of violence, exploitative child labour, or other abuses. What is more, the stigmatization and discrimination that people affected with HIV often live with is passed onto these children, making their fight for survival that much more precarious.
Surviving children face malnutrition, illness, physical and psychosocial trauma, and impaired cognitive and emotional development. Unaccompanied girls are at especially high risk of sexual abuse. And because of all this, they too are very likely to become HIV-positive. When parents or caregivers fall sick and die, children’s life often falls apart. The entire family feels the economic impact in the sense that the majority of the children becomes street children. Other impacts are related to school dropouts, the attitude which later drives them to child labour extremes, and for girls are vulnerable to sexual abuse in domestic housework because of the stigma attached to their orphaned status. Studies from numerous regions in the country have shown that orphaned children have substantially lower levels of education than children who are not orphaned. But extended families traditionally steps in to take care of these children.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

ICTs are catalysts for economic growth of nations

DEVELOPMEMNT of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has been hailed as an important tool that accelerate development in developing countries. Stiff competition and technological advances have led to a fall in the cost of ICT products and services thus it has provided and contributed immensely to the global economy. According to the Managing Director of Tanzania Defense of Human Rights and Citizen’s Rights protections, loosening of trade restrictions has encouraged the growth and expansion of ICT and hence revolutionized the sector. Investments ion ICT have grown substantially in both developed and developing countries has been high since 2005/2009 and users have increased its operations day by day. There is a general agreement that increased ICT production and usage has contributed a lot to the economic growth of the country. ICT comprises the manufacturing and service industries that capture, transmit and display date and information electronically. Manufactured products include office, accounting and computing machinery, insulated wires and cable electronic valves and tubes and other electronic components. Service industries as part of ICT includes wholesaling of computers, computer peripherals equipment and software. Whole selling of electronic and Tele-communication parts and equipment renting of office machinery and equipment. According to an IT specialist, increased production of ICTs has contributed to higher output, created employment opportunities. According to him, ICT has the potential of making the government and other organizations more efficient, more inclined to share information, more transparent and accountable. The government can also use ICT in isolated rural communities with urban centers as well as offer the poor economic opportunities. Although the developing countries currently lag behind developed countries in adopting ICT, low opportunity costs for switching from old to new ICT technology may enable developing countries to learn from the experiences of the advanced economies and facilitate the adoption of modern technologies. The internet for instance cannot work without the application of computer and other data communication access. There are possible network effects in the application of ICT at least in some areas which may create an effective barrier to the spread of ICT.

A recently constructed National University of Dodoma in Tanzania. ICT training at the University main campus is part of the course programe to be conducted at the University

The requirement of technology adoption in terms of human capital also vary across the technology which allows relatively easy leap frogging as effective use of certain software application require higher levels of human capital. Professor Hamza Iddi Pazi of the University of Dodoma says that, ICT revolution is skilled biased and increases demand for the high skilled workers as compared to relatively to low skilled workers creating a significant disparity in wages as is the case in Tanzania. For instance in Northern Ghana, local trained in computer skills and management can earn up to US$ 6,000 per year while the average gross national product (GNP) per capita in Ghana is US$ 390. In developing countries, the majority of ICT users are from the most educated sectors of the population. This means that they reap the benefit and economic opportunity while the uneducated are excluded. For example in Tanzania, a high percentage of internet users have computer knowledge and skills. However, the skills required for using ICT are gradually diminishing as more people become familiar with them. For example, in science sectors using computers often involves simple and repetitive tasks that are easy to learn

Mobile phone banking becomes of age

TRANSFEREING money using the services of cell-phone network operators is increasingly becoming a common phenomenon among the more than 14 million Tanzanians who currently have access to mobile telephony Tanzania is home to a doxen mobile telephone service providers, three of whom are already providing money transfer service as a matter of routine. These are with the call signs shown in brackets, Vodacom (M-Pesa), Zantel (Z-Pesa), and Zain (Zap). Also loosely known as mobile banking, money transfer service through cellular telephony is made possible through State-of-the Art- technologies which are part of the disposal of the respective company’s subscribers. Cellular money transfer were pioneered in East Africa by the Kenya based Safaricom company in 2007, coining the code M-Pesa for the service. That code was later adopted by Vodacom Tanzania Limited. Zantel launched its Z-Pesa service in Tanzania in late 2007, while later-comer Zain came out with its Zap in June 20-09. The system is among the easiest ways of sending money within the country whether one has a bank or not. One can pay for goods and services purchased by one using the system. If nothing else, this is one more step in co signing to the dustbin of history the need for one to carry huge sums of money around and about. Questions have been raised in certain quarters whether or not the mobile banking services now provided by the cellular phone providers do not impinge upon services that have traditionally been provided by the banks on main street.

Mobile phones have provided an easy way to send money to the people in rural areas, this innovative technology has relieved many local people in remote areas from walking a far distance to towns in order to get their cash sent by their relatives.

This is especially considering that subscribers who wish to access the services must first and foremost open an account with their respective network provider, Vodacom, Zantel, and Zain in the case of Tanzania. Dopes not that make the cellular firms virtual bankers one might very well ask according to the Bank of Tanzania (BOT). In any case mobile banking has come as a saviour to residents in rural areas in the country who do not have direct access to the banks. A subscriber who opens the requisite account can send up to Tshs. 500,000/- within the country in a single transaction at least for M-Pesa clients. But costs of the services differ among the service provided and in relation to transaction values. For example, Zain’s Zap service charges Tshs. 1,000/- when one sends between Tshs. 29,000/- and Tshs. 100,000/- in a single transaction. The more mponey pone sends the higher the charges Vodacom charges Tshs. 600/- for a single M-Pesa transaction whose value ranges between Tshs. 20,000/- and Tshs. 50,000/- call for higher charges. However, Vodacom, does not charge when one pays for a service like buying a LUKU prepaid electricity units. For its Z-Pesa services Zantel has put in place graduated charges. The charges vary according to the amount one sends for instance, as well as the network used. For instance, it costs Tsh. 225/- to send a sum between Tshs. 10,000/- and Tshs. 19,999 on its network and Tshs. 720/- if using a different cellular network. Currently Zantel (Z-Pesa) has over 1,100 customers on its books. The other two service providers, Vodacom (M-Pesa) and Zain (Zap) were unable, unwilling or not ready to divulge the number of other mobile banking account holders. Apart from money transfer through cellular network service providers, some bus companies are also playing a considerable role in transferring money across the land. However, this type of service is yet to be formally recognized by BOT. In nay case the bank says it plans to study the system in 2009/10 financial year so as to decide whether to endorse it in the country or not.

Bringing ICT tarinings for rural African community development

MUCH has been done by the introduction of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in societies and internet has played a crucial role in bridging the knowledge gap between societies. Notwithstanding issues of access for the internet to truly be a tool for knowledge building. It will need further adaptation in order to meet the need of the so-called the information poor.In order to build a sustainable and inclusive information society in Africa, ICT innovations and research are of particular importance as they could have revolutionary impact on currently under serviced and marginalized groups. The basic role of African media is to report on these innovations and research activities and disseminate the results so as to create awareness and stimulate debate on their impact on societal development. Despite current developments with increased coverage in urban areas and along several main highways in most countries in Sub-Saharan regions, still the majority of its people in rural areas will for the foreseeable future be without reachable and reliable ICT connections and services. There is conception that the risk of establishing viable ICTs such as mobile telecommunication in rural areas in Africa is too high. But despite of this, the point to be noted is that ICT can play a pivotal role in reducing the state of poverty of the marginalized groups in rural communities. To achieve reliable communication networks, some people have regularly or often preferred mobile phones even in areas where there is no connection. Lack of means of communication in rural communities results in several major setbacks if there is no coordination between middlemen and farmers who solely depend on information for price setups or properly organized marketing systems. It is important to realize that, the internet represents an instant economic device of knowing what the market price for commodities such as cash crops is for businessmen and women in various corners of the world. But since it is so expensive for rural areas, its accessibility is also low. Despite the fact that, the internet is used as a means of delivering agricultural information to farmers in rural communities, but there is increasing evidence that the technology is still beyond the reach of many farmers.

Students in class for ICT training.

Studies shows that, rural farmers do not have direct access to the internet in rural areas pending on a number of factors. The basic ones being the increased computer illiteracy among users and an unreliable infrastructure such as electricity. In view of these two common actors, it’s therefore the government’s responsibilities to remove barriers of information access to ensure that special attention is given to the rural people where agriculture is still their main economic activity. It is also worth noting that the communication environment means more than just telephones. Without basic infrastructure such as readily available power, roads and transport phones are hardly likely to bring down the expected benefits. Out of the available ICTs which are usable as new media facilities, the application of mobile telephony is able to improve and enhance communications for the rural people in Africa. This can support participatory development as well as allow the voices of the people to be heard through a range of options that can be operated individually or within small networks not requiring elaborate infrastructure. The development of rural telephony is an important issue not only for big investors but also for farmers and fishermen because communication is central to development. But in order to achieve this, stable energy is needed to support the operation of mobile towers. Tanzanian government has underscored the need for making ICTs that is gender sensitive and more accessible to the common people throughout Africa. According to the Minister for Community Development, Gender and Children Mrs. Margreth Sitta, in order for ICT to foster the attainment of the development goals, they must be employed effectively and relevantly. Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology (COSTECH) has made great strides in upgrading rural communities by helping the establishments of rural ICT projects in the country. The main objective of these projects is to utilize ICTs for enhancing local good governance and indirectly catalyzing community development. To mention a few, Lunga-Lugoba is one of the villages in the country identified by the COSTECH as the site of a pilot project which seeks to introduce ICTs at the grassroots in the country. The village is situated by the roadside some 120 Kms away from the Dar es Salaam commercial city of Tanzania and has the basic power and telecommunication infrastructure for ICT application. The ICT services provided at the Lunga-Lugoda village includes, emails, internet surfing, ICT training, secretarial services, and local database creation for health and educational purposes. For minimal cost to villagers, they can now utilize the internet for communication purposes and access to knowledge. The idea is to make this as a model and once is successful, similar Tele-centers will be established to minimize the gap between rural and urban on the use of ICT facilities. Ultimately projects like these ones contribute to the overall social-economic development and poverty alleviation initiatives in Tanzania.

Community radios are the furthest ICTs for rural people

LOCAL Scientists believe that local communications can boost development and democracy in rural areas by using community radios. Their transmission enables isolated communities across Africa to voice their own concerns and explore ways to improve education, share farming tips and income generation ideas. Through community radio stations, the vast majority of the marginalized African group listeners in remote rural areas can hear news, practical information and the views of their neighbors. But despite of a multitude of new information outlets, millions of Africans especially in rural areas remain voiceless. Most media remain largely state controlled. But the tide of democracy sweeping the continent has seen governments loosening their grip on the airwaves. While radios are best form of communication and the furthest reaching ICT in rural African communities, some cannot operate properly because of lack of finances. But the majority of the people can afford and do not need to be illiterate. The device enables the poor in most African rural communities to solve their isolation as they do not have any other cheap and reliable access to information apart from other communication channels such as the internet, telephones and televisions which need stable infrastructure. Since the emergence of community radios in Africa which came into being as early as in 1990s, few challenges have dogged them as constantly as the one of sustainability, and in most cases their operations have been intervened by governments.

Radios are the furthest ICT tools which reaches a great number of peole in rural areas. Here broadcasters at work in a radio studio.

Traditionally, radios have changed the lives of the rural communities as people listens extensively and put announcements on the air to tell relatives about important social events, and other forms of traditional entertainments. Community radios might have engaged in income generating activities such as small scale farming, market gardening or chicken rearing. Radio projects bring opportunities for community members to learn new skills, thus improving prospects for employment at commercial stations. In 1985, statistics made available by the World Association of Community Broadcasters (AMARC) by its French initials, showed that, there were fewer than 10 independent radio stations on the entire African continent. But today, South Africa alone has more than 150 community radio stations, and other countries are catching up. But despite of the proliferation, Tanzania has none, this is because of the fact that, the government is not yet in a position to allow them as almost 99 percent of the country’s population are unified in one Kiswahili national language. Mali the second from South Africa, has one of the strongest community radio networks in Africa, and it has more than 110 private radio stations, 86 of them are community radios mostly rurally based. This is contrary to Tanzania whereby the state has registered over 40 radio stations to operate in the country in the last 10 years. Unfortunately, out of these there is no a community based radio station.
This is for reasons basically known as related to the strengthening of national solidarity. Before that, only one radio station was workable since independence in 1961. This is a state owned radio, known as “Radio Tanzania Dar es Salaam”. Moreover, community radios are especially important in countries with high illiteracy rates and where many rural people speak primarily local, indigenous languages. Statistics issued by a registering body, Tanzania Communication Regulatory Authority (TCRA) as up to December 2005, shows that out of 35 registered radio stations, among them are privately owned and there are those owned by the religious institutions. The idea of accelerating development by using both older media such the radio and newer information and communication technologies such as the internet and mobile phones has gained momentum in Africa over the past decade. Broadcasting services can foster regional trade and improve integration into the global economy. The ability of ordinary people to communicate each other also helps promote democracy and good governance. The cost of setting up communications infrastructure is steep, however, especially in rural areas where distances are vast and population densities are low. Radios by contrast are inexpensive and can run on batteries or solar power, and by far is the dominant mass medium in most rural communities in Africa. Studies shows that, there is one radio receiver for every five people compared with one telephone receiver for every 100 people, and the content of radio programs is also cheap to create and cheap to consume, says Mrs. Grace Githaiga, the Executive Director of Eco-News Africa.

How partnerships can help ward off the digital divide in Africa

THE Digital Divide is defined as a gap between people who can effectively use new information and communication tools such as internet, mobile phones etc and those who cannot mostly probably due to ignorance or poverty. This gap has increasingly rendered human capacity into ineffective in terms of providing services and information giving to the community. But with the use of partnerships these can help clear the digital problem in a society. African continent is still lagging behind in the information technologies and their applications in the world, and the reason for this is increasingly because of the digital divide. Most African nations fails to coordinate their sector development activities basically due to lack of knowledge and unreliable access to the available Information and Communication Technology (ICT) tools. Statistics shows that about 80 percent of the African rural communities living in Sub-Saharan region are faced with extreme poverty and as a result, people’s social and economic development has been deteriorating continuously year after the year due to financial capability. Indeed the lack of communication skills and insufficiency use of modern communication tools has become a stumbling block of mankind development an aspect which slows down the pace of globalization in Africa. Some development analysts see the issue of the digital divide as a cause of poverty and underdevelopment. They believe that as the global economy becomes more and more dependent on ICT, people who are not able to use the technologies will be increasingly excluded. Others point out that the digital divide is now part of an overall development divide and therefore opportunities for increasing communication channels should be seen as a core activity of development.

Foreigners in one of the local internet cafe, partnerships can help bridghe the digital divide in Africa.

In a bid to find solutions to local communities for ICT access problems, leaders and financial donors always collaborate mainly with the rural populations where the situation is worse, and the civil society to take stock of the reality of the situation and avoid proposing not only inappropriate, but unacceptable socio-cultural solutions. Everyone, especially the rural populations acknowledges that modern ICTs are wonderful tools for development and efficient management which however ensures a conducive working environment. In order to embrace ICTs as key elements towards improving productivity and modern communication mechanisms, the rural area needs at least basic economic and social infrastructures such as roads, water, food, electricity, literacy (education) etc. These incentives cannot be attained unless government have to set a special fund in their national budgets to run the projects. But it’s unfortunate that, most African governments depends on the donor funding to ease their development processes, hence the idea of such prospective projects ends up in vain if sufficient money is not available for the intended purposes. But through partnerships people are brought together to share a common interest that consumes valuable resources as well as time, and efforts that might not be available in a single organization or institution to end the digital problem. Partnerships can be described as a mutual, supportive arrangement between organizations, agencies, businesses, and/or communities with the purpose of addressing a problematic situation.

A Maasai moran communicating by using a mobile phone. Through partnership, Africa can ward off the existing digital divide in rural communities.

In this spirit, individuals, businesses, organizations, institutions, communities, and governing bodies need to collectively unite the creative minds and develop ideas that will address the issue to end the multifaceted problem of the Digital Divide. This is the power of partnerships whose key is to involve people that have expertise and interest in these areas with the purpose of acquiring a complete picture of the variables involved and finding solutions to the problems identified. This can be done by advocacy through various IT organizations, educators, social service providers, research institutions and government officials. These groups need to work collectively on the issue and disseminate the group activities and findings. The Digital Divide is an enormous dilemma for all people, not just people with disabilities. By demonstrating that partnerships are a successful and effective tool in addressing the variables involved in the Digital Divide, it will be easier to get others to support and participate in these efforts. According to one researcher, Dr. Taylor Kearns of the US based International Center for Disability Resources for Internet (ICDRI), partnerships are tools that can help address issues in all their complexity, identify options, and deliver resources more powerfully and effectively than any one organization or business can possibly do. However, in order for partnerships to work, they need to be organized, implemented, and evaluated successfully. Those involved in partnerships need to have a vested interest in the success of the partnership. The digital gap is the least of concerns of the rural world as it is plagued by internal social problems which are common to several African countries. At national level, there is great need to curb the extreme disparities between towns and countryside at different areas such as health, education and training, drinking water, transportation, etc. The important issue here is how ICTs can solve numerous social, economic, agricultural and digital problems currently afflicting the global village, continents and governments as well.

ICT training is vital for people gain knoiwledge to ward off the digital divide in Africa.

Over the past eight years or so there have been several projects in Africa that have brought Information and Communication Technologies to rural and other disadvantaged communities. Some of these have worked well, many others have had problems related to technical, managerial, social or financial aspects. In Tanzania for examples, there are about 20 most famous Tele-centers which are donor-funded such as the ones established by ITU- UNESCO-IDRC. These have shown that some ICTs are welcomed and used when established in rural areas of Africa. These offer some useful services, though are often very expensive to use. The centers are financially sustainable though their link to wider development is questionable. In several countries there are ICT projects attached to specific government project where the technology supports an existing service. The largest of these are the many school ICT projects (Schoolnet Africa works in over 20 African countries). There are other examples of ICT being used in health clinics to support Tele-health and Tele-medicine, of ICTs in agricultural extension projects and in Small-business support. The IT training in most parts of Africa is still inadequately financed despite being the important sector which helps to speed up globalization processes and the disadvantaged areas in Africa face great challenges. This is due to the fact that, in many areas there is great poverty - with many countries facing famine. Infrastructure is lacking in many areas, and few people have the formal skills in ICT. However, the difficulty of running ICT projects in remote areas has led to the failure or difficulties with many projects. Lack of technical skills, spare parts, finances and other issues compound the difficulty for many of these centres. There are also a number of smaller community based ICT projects, with the equipment being used by a community organization or NGO to support their services, as with community radio or other local development projects. In rural Tanzania, the IT sector through the program formed two years ago known as Lang Management Program (LAMP), has introduced internet facilities to a number of districts in the country in a bid to bridge the digital divide. The program that is conducted under the auspices of the Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology (COSTECH), aims at helping the poor get more access to the ICTs in the country. According to COSTECH’s project coordinator Mr. Theophillus Mlaki, who is also the Director of Information and Documentation, the ICT project would create a lot of benefits to farmers and livestock keepers.

Tanzania government starts radio program to help farmers access markets

TANZANIA government in collaboration with a Non-Governmental Organization called the Rural Livelihoods Development Company (RLDC) has established radio program aimed at improving farmers’ income and increasing marketing awareness among farmers in the country. According to RLDC’s Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Charles Ogutu, the move is meant to equip farmers in all corners of the country with information related to markets. In most cases, farmers do not have enough information about markets, this was after an in-depth study was done, therefore in view of this, the company in collaboration with the government has resolved to support them especially those in central corridor by way of providing trainings through radio programs.
The weekly programs have already been started and are aired on Radio Free Africa with its stations based in Mwanza city in northern Tanzania. According to him, various studies have proved that radio programs was the best and most affordable means to communicate with farmers in remote areas. The aims of the programs, however would encourage rural farmers to actively engaged in productive agricultural activities because currently farmers in the country are wasting a lot of energy in sectors in sectors which are productive enough to support their families. The program would promote them by voicing out their experiences or problems and in this way, the government and other development partners would be able to intervene. RLDC is jointly supported by the Swiss and Tanzania governments and it’s currently working in six regions of Manyara, Tabora, Dodoma, Morogoro, Singida and Shinyanga.